Part 1: Introduction

Principles for effectively co-governing natural resources.

In this Part, we discuss:

The purpose of this report

Many New Zealanders are taking action to conserve the environment. Throughout New Zealand, iwi, hapū, and community groups are working to monitor, protect, and enhance the health of their environment.

Some natural resources are "co-governed" – the work to restore or conserve them is led as a result of negotiated decision-making arrangements between iwi and/or other groups, central government, and/or local government. Many of these arrangements have come about after long negotiations, including Treaty of Waitangi settlements. The arrangements have many legal forms and include statutory bodies, trusts, and other relationships.

We looked at a selection of these arrangements to identify what works well and what does not. We wanted to identify factors that need to be considered when setting up and maintaining effective co-governance arrangements.

What we looked at

We looked at eight examples of co-governance and how co-governance is being used for environmental projects (see Figure 1). The examples are:

  • Waikato River Authority;
  • Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority (Auckland);
  • Te Waihora Co-Governance Agreement (Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury);
  • Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group;
  • Ngā Poutiriao o Mauao (Tauranga);
  • Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust (Waikato);
  • Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Reserves Board; and
  • Parakai Recreation Reserve Board.

Figure 1
Locations of the co-governance examples we looked at

Figure 1 Locations of the co-governance examples we looked at.

All the examples involved iwi and local authorities. Some also included community groups. Some arose out of Treaty of Waitangi claims settlements. Others were voluntary, including one that was later formalised through a Treaty settlement.

We reviewed participants' experiences and perceptions and used that information to identify what helps to set up and operate co-governance arrangements successfully.

Although our main interest was in co-governance, we looked at examples that were sometimes a mixture of co-governance and co-management. We identified principles that apply generally to both co-governance and co-management.

In resource management work, the terms "co-governance" and "co-management" are both used to describe negotiated arrangements between iwi, central government, local government, and/or local groups to achieve effective management of an environmental or conservation resource.

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably because their definitions are not well understood. Governance focuses on strategic matters, while management is concerned with day-to-day operational responsibilities. When used correctly, the terms can describe the extent of decision-making powers (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Comparing co-management and co-governance

The collaborative process of decision-making and problem solving within the administration of conservation policy. Arrangements in which ultimate decision-making authority resides with a collaborative body exercising devolved power – where power and responsibility are shared between government and local stakeholders.

Source: Dodson, G. (2014), "Co-Governance and Local Empowerment? Conservation Partnership Frameworks and Marine Protection at Mimiwhangata, New Zealand" in Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal (2014) Volume 7, Issue 25, available at

Where natural resources are managed as part of or after a Treaty settlement, co-governance often means that there are equal numbers of iwi representatives and council members involved. Usually (an exception is the Waikato River Authority), councils retain final decision-making powers over the management of natural resources. This is in keeping with councils' responsibilities under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002.

In the examples we looked at, some were about governance and others more about management. In some, people's roles included elements of both governance and management.

The Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 set up the Waikato River Authority as a co-governance entity. The Waikato River Authority sets the direction for managing the Waikato River in its "Vision and Strategy" document. This document is considered to be part of the Waikato Regional Policy Statement. It is binding on all national, regional, and district policy and decisions for the management of the river.

The Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority is also a co-governance entity. Auckland Council is responsible for managing the Maunga, under the direction of the Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority.

The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group is charged with providing leadership in putting into effect its vision and strategy for the Rotorua lakes and their catchments. As the governance group, it provides the direction, vision, and strategic oversight for the lakes programme. The strategy group needs to approve any decisions about funding under the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme.

Local authorities usually control the creation, membership, and disestablishment of joint committees. However, when they are part of Treaty redress, the creation and membership of these committees are agreed between councils and iwi and provided for in Treaty legislation. This is the case for the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group. The Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Act 2006 provides for the establishment of a permanent joint committee that can be disestablished only with the agreement of all parties. This means that the Te Arawa Lakes Trust is an equal member with the regional and district councils.

As we have mentioned, some of the examples we looked at contained elements of co-governance and co-management. The parties to the Te Waihora Co-Governance Agreement told us that their arrangement was "one step away from true co-governance". However, the partners were clear that they wanted an arrangement that allowed for some form of co-governance:

Ngāi Tahu own the lake bed via the treaty settlement, which must mean something. It's at the least a very powerful symbol, but not just symbolic. [You] can't dismiss their view, even though they have no [Resource Management Act] powers.

Importantly, in this instance, the parties are clear about their limits but also clear about where they want to get to: "[It's] not quite co-governance … The arrangement starts at co-management, with the mechanism to move to co-governance." The parties' agreement confirmed their commitment to "strive toward appropriate vesting of decision-making powers in the Parties as co-governors over the Te Waihora catchment".

The members of Ngā Poutiriao o Mauao are clear that they are co-managers. The Mauao Trust, as the owners of the historic reserve, are the governors.

In the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust's case, the Trust has a co-governance structure, where the board is co-chaired by a mana whenua representative and a landowner representative. The Trust members maintain that the co-governance regime ensures that tikanga Māori is incorporated in governance and day-to-day management decisions.

Responsibility for managing the scenic reserve rests with Waipa District Council. The Council has a working relationship with the Trust to deliver the desired outcomes. For the land within the fenced perimeter but outside the reserve, it is intended that the Trust will manage the land as though part of the scenic reserve. Landowner covenants would cover this management arrangement.

What we did not look at

We did not look at the effectiveness of the co-governance arrangements in achieving environmental outcomes because, in most instances, it was too early to assess effectiveness. However, we have reported their achievements to date, where these are publicly available (see the Appendices).

How we carried out our work

To carry out our work, we:

  • reviewed co-governance literature and material relating to the examples that we chose;
  • visited Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty (Tauranga and Rotorua), and Canterbury to meet the people involved and to understand their projects well; and
  • interviewed 54 people in central government, local authorities, iwi, and community groups, most with governance and/or operational roles.

Because each co-governance arrangement was different, we had lines of questioning to guide our conversations. Basing our questions on our expectations of good governance and leadership, we focused on:

  • clarity of purpose;
  • roles and responsibilities;
  • capability;
  • accountability and integrity;
  • information and reporting; and
  • financial sustainability.

Structure of this report

In Part 2, we discuss the importance of effective relationships when setting up and putting into effect co-governance arrangements.

In Part 3, we discuss how parties need to build and maintain a shared understanding of what they are trying to achieve.

In Part 4, we discuss how parties need to put in place the processes and understandings about how they will work together to achieve their purpose.

In Part 5, we discuss how important it is to involve people with the right experience and capacity in setting up and putting into effect co-governance arrangements.

In Part 6, we discuss how parties need to plan for accountability reporting and financial sustainability.

Appendices 1-6 provide background information about six of the co-governance examples.